Queens beast series: The Unicorn of Scotland


The Unicorn of Scotland

Tales of the mythical unicorn date back to around 400 BC, perhaps confused or exaggerated descriptions of animals like the rhinoceros or wild bulls and horses. The creature was at first thought to be huge, strong and fierce, but it later became a more elegant beast, a symbol of purity and innocence. James I of England, who united the English and Scottish thrones, chose the Scottish Unicorn to join the Lion of England in supporting the Royal Arms. They have supported the shield ever since.

The Unicorn of Scotland, milk-white with gold hooves, horn and mane, has a coronet around its neck, like a collar, with a gold chain attached. It is thought that the chain was to show a great beast had been tamed to serve the king. As with most chained beasts in heraldry, its strength is emphasised rather than diminished by its shackles. It holds the royal coat of Scotland, unchanged since the time of Scottish king, Alexander III. A red lion rampant (the most fierce stance) is shown on a gold background.


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